SOURCE: Based on Popular Science, 14 Aug 2023, “School district uses ChatGPT to help remove library books,” as used in the post ChatGPT, the Fahrenheit 451 edition.
This is one of those songs that I want someone else to sing – someone with a much more sarcastic affect, like AJJ (or, really, any riot grrl band from the 90s). Using robots – OK, “large language models,” to devise book-banning lists isn’t like the usual riot grrl subject matter, but the frustrated snark should be right there. Who has time to read all this stuff we’re banning? Just trust the computer, even if it hallucinates from time to time.
So, the first line of this song is something true and mundane – I had a freelance writing job that involved writing FAQs, frequently asked questions. At the same time, I was sort of humming the first verse to a song that didn’t exist yet. It was faster than where I feel at home (205 bpm), and in a style I like listening to but almost never sing in. I could hear a bratty female voice shouting the melody. It took me a while to figure out that the meter was in 3/4, which I should have done a better job forgetting – the waltziness shows through in the final mix more that it did for the music in my head.
I kind of knew the song would be about AI, which probably affected the way I thought about the bass. That’s actually two different SoundFonts, with one (a qin sample) playing the “one” note in each measure, and another (an actual bass sample) playing the “two-three” notes. The drums are also probably more abstract than they should be – instead of using a kit, I used the ReaSamplomatic 3000 VST that comes with Reaper and sampled a bunch of different drum kits. I think the ride cymbal might have been from a Slant 6 song, though the crash was definitely from some drum machine sample library a friend shared back in the early 00s. An Alesis, I think.
I went a little out of order after that, did the guitar solo, and then recorded the rhythm guitar tracks, which gave the right organic feeling – although I was using a nylon string, I ran it through a different amp emulator than usual (VeeAmp) which was way bassier and fatter than I expected but I kind of fell in love with it. Then, hammered the rest of the lyrics out – all questions posed to a computer (the doubled vox) by someone ready to take the books off the shelves, and the computer answering. Working out the timing for the second verse was delightful.
A more boring me would spend weeks or months trying to iron out the meter so all the syllables fit and every line had its own sentence, but the rushed feeling I’ve got is really the aesthetic I was going for. Flipping between single voice and hard-panned double vox was a choice. I think it works, but it may be a thing that works better the second time you hear the song than the first.
If I can make one person involuntarily hum the opening line hours after listening, I’ll be happy.
(in a fast ¾ time)
I’ve (C) got to write (G) fre(Am)quently asked (F)questions again(C) (C)
About (G)things I don’t (G)understand
I’ll make it all up, then fact-check it from start to end
And hope it all comes out right
CH:(F) Dan-(F)gers from (Am) books left on (G)middle-school
(F)shelves, can’t com-(C)pute what we (G)don’t read our-
(F)selves, program (Am) AIs with (G)innocent
(F)eyes to (G)decipher what pages say, (G) then take it all away,
(G) trusting machines more than children.
Q1: Who is holding hands with someone we don’t
approve of? A: The computer knows.
2: What does poetry mean? 3. Which love songs are legal?
A: The computer goes…
So stoke up the home fires, hallucinate sins, print out labels…
Without checking what’s inside
Who has the time to read? What could the children need books for?
What good comes from questions?
I’ve got to write frequently asked questions again.